Review: ‘Smoke And Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini’ is an ode to a living legend.

SMOKE AND MIRRORS: The Story of Tom Savini

Special Makeup Effects legend, Actor, Director, Stuntman. Tom Savini has redefined the horror genre with his arsenal of talents. But who is the man behind the “King of Splatter?” From his childhood in Pittsburgh, PA; to his tour of duty during Vietnam, to his beginnings with George A. Romero and beyond. SMOKE AND MIRRORS is the defining documentary on the life and career of horror icon Tom Savini.

Featuring Tom Savini, Danny McBride, Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo, Alice Cooper, Greg Nicotero, Tom Atkins, Corey Feldman, Doug Bradley, Bill Moseley, and more!


The first time I noticed Tom Savini on-screen was when I saw From Dusk Till Dawn in theaters. Little did I know, my love of horror was in large part due to his legendary work in all aspects of the industry. In Jason Baker‘s new documentary, Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini, huge household names sit down and chat about Savini’s artistry. But mostly, we hear directly from Tom. His early influences came from each of his five older siblings. As we tag along with Savini, he shows us his old neighborhood, pictures from his childhood, and tells us stories about growing up with classic horror. That’s only the beginning of the mountains of information in this film. Savini’s time in Vietnam changed him. He talks about seeing human atrocities through his camera lens. Coming home from the war, he rediscovered his love of live theatre. After teaming up with George Romero, the two changed the face, in some ways quite literally, of horror. The entire genre suddenly became elevated and respected.
The doc stitches together interviews from across the years. While at times, this feels a bit chaotic, it gives us a plethora of tales. For example, Night of the Living Dead was a completely different experience for Tom than it was for fans. We get the chance to see all the things that he shot that were cut. He walks us through his original ending with side-by-side storyboards. We also get access to cut footage of his character Sex Machine, in From Dusk Till Dawn. The man was great at so many things! Watching his theatre work and the magic he instilled into his productions is astonishing.  Every talking head in Smoke and Mirrors explains that Tom is a genuine and gentle person. Hearing him talk about his work and family you get the sense that these aren’t just opinions.
Tom Savini‘s ingenuity and craftsmanship rightfully made him a household name. On a personal note, prior to this film, I didn’t have the faintest idea that it was Tom Savini who was responsible for traumatizing me in my youth. Creepshow changed my life. I cannot recall how many times I rented that video. Through my nightmares, some that remain to this day, I have come to adore the horror genre. It’s abundantly clear, Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini is special effects makeup and practical FX porn. It’s movie magic at its finest. Savini is a real-life magician.


From Wild Eye Releasing, director Jason Baker‘s SMOKE AND MIRRORS on Digital October 19.

About Liz Whittemore

Liz grew up in northern Connecticut and was memorizing movie dialogue from Shirley Temple to A Nightmare on Elm Street at a very early age. She will watch just about any film all the way through (no matter how bad) just to prove a point. A loyal New Englander, a lover of Hollywood, and true inhabitant of The Big Apple.